22 January 2016

Oh my intestines!

Scientific approach to the study of the rich inner world

So, we have two pieces of news for you, a good one and a good one. Firstly, you are not quite a person, secondly, you are not quite alone.

Briefly about the microbiotaA person consists of 50% of the actual human cells.

Everything else is bacteria that inhabit our body on the surface and from the inside, as people inhabit the planet Earth, but with the big difference that bacteria do not bring so much destruction, but rather, on the contrary, they help their planet.

Communities of bacteria are called microbiota. They distinguish between the microbiota of the skin, oral cavity, upper respiratory tract, genitals and the most interesting for us – the gut microbiota. It includes more than a thousand species of bacteria, whose combined genome is 1000 times larger than a human one. All this data is being investigated by the Human Microbiome Project, and every day the amount of knowledge about the mycorobiote grows exponentially. There are already research results that can be applied in practice.

Now we know that it is the intestinal microflora that plays an important role in the digestive system and the metabolism of vitamins and minerals (some of which are absorbed only by the microbiota). It is the gut microbiota that performs the protective functions of the body – 70% of our immunity depends on gut bacteria. And if something went wrong, then it is the composition of the intestinal microbiota that can cause autoimmune diseases, obesity, type II diabetes, depression, etc.

And what to do about it But let's finish with the horror stories.

The most interesting thing in this story is that the composition of your microbiota can be changed. It is affected by every package of chips eaten and a glass of kefir drunk, the exercise done this morning, the ecology of your home and your city, treatment with antibiotics and other medications – in short, every day of life in the metropolis can change your microbiota for the better or for the worse.

DNA screening tests are gaining more and more popularity now. The genetic test provides information about the "starter kit" that you receive from birth, but which you cannot change (yet). And a genetic test of your microbiota will not only provide data on its current state, but will also allow you to change the composition of bacteria in a healthier way. As soon as the changes take effect (this will take about two weeks), you can take the test again and check how well the chosen therapy works.

Russian OhmyGut TestFor such a case, the Atlas biomedical holding, together with the company Knomix and the experts of the FHM Research Institute, launched the OhmyGut research project.

(For those who do not know English: the name of the project is a pun, sounding almost like “Oh my God” – VM.) This is a molecular analysis of the intestinal microbiota, which examines the genes of intestinal bacteria and determines their composition and ratio. The data obtained can be compared with "portraits" of the microbiota of healthy people and patients with various diseases, from acute colitis to obesity and diabetes mellitus. Such data will help to see negative trends in changes in the microbiota, determine optimal dietary recommendations or start preventive therapy at the earliest stage. And the success of the chosen treatment can always be checked by repeated testing.

Experimental biotechnological crowdfundingAt the first stage, the OhmyGut project is working in crowdfunding mode.

This is an opportunity for our laboratory to collect the necessary amount of biomaterial for the Russian population, and for each of the participants to undergo a study at the price of the necessary chemical reagents (this is 5000 rubles for a double test and a rare opportunity to support Russian science with practical benefits for themselves). The test includes two test tubes, a questionnaire and nutrition recommendations from a nutritionist.

During the whole stage of the experiment, we will keep in touch with each participant of the experiment. Actually, this is another important profit for the organizers of crowdfunding: to deal with interested users for the beta testing period. 

To save a snapshot of the initial state of the microbiota, each participant takes the first test (yes, this is a stool analysis). This is followed by a survey, according to which the nutritionist formulates recommendations on the diet. You start a new life diet on Monday, and two weeks later you take the microbiota test again. 

The test tubes are sent to the laboratory, and two weeks later you receive a detailed report on the composition of the microbiota "was / became", an assessment of the effectiveness of the chosen diet and updated nutrition recommendations. By the way, this is a great reason to check out the theories of nutrition that you are interested in: these two weeks you can follow the recommended diet, and then see how it really affects you.

As a result, each participant will go home with full-fledged statistics about which diet is preferable for him, and the OhmyGut team will receive their necessary 100+ test tubes with biomaterial, user feedback and an important launch experience, which we will tell you more about.

Join the project on the "Boomstarter" and come discuss it in the comments – we will answer everyone. 

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